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Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's Palm Sunday -- and so the Passion Begins!

What a picture we saw at Mass this morning. Before the processional the priest blessed the palms and read the gospel of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. How soon things changed. By the end of Mass we had walked the way of the cross. We saw Judas betray Jesus with a kiss and Peter with three denials punctuated by curses. We heard the crowds (ourselves taking their places) scream "Crucify him!" and watched Pontius Pilate try to wash innocent blood from his guilty hands. We walked along the via crucis adding our own sinful abuse of Christ to the weight of His cross. And we saw the Roman soldiers wield all the tools of torture from the multi-thonged scourge studded with bone, to the crown of thorns, to the nine-inch nails used to brutally attach the precious body to the wooden beams.

And how does Jesus respond through it all? Silence and prayer. "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."

There is an awful (and awe-full) passion meditation from Pierre Barbet's A Doctor at Calvary. Barbet was a surgeon who wrote the book in the 1950s after examining the Shroud of Turin. His analysis of Christ's suffering is told with a doctor's eye for detail and a sense of the physical pains that accompanied each stage from the sweat of blood on the Mount of Olives until Christ took his last agonized breath and whispered, "It is finished" on Calvary hill. My husband and I read the meditation every Good Friday to remind us once more of the terrible price Christ paid because of our sins.

Let me give you one paragraph to meditate on and urge you to buy the book. "The crucifixion begins. Oh, it is not very complicated; the executioners know their work. First of all He must be stripped. The lower garments are dealt with easily enough, but the coat has firmly stuck to His wounds, that is to say, to His whole body, and this stripping is a horrible business.Have you ever removed the first dressing which has been on a large bruised wound, and has dried on it? Or have you yourself ever been through this ordeal, which sometimes requires a general anaesthetic? If so, you know what it is like. Each thread has stuck to the raw surface, and when it is removed it tears away one of the innumberable nervous ends which have been laid bare by the wound. These thousands of painful shocks add up and multiply, each one increasing the sensitivity of the nervous system. Now it is not just a question of a local lesion, but of almost the whole surface of the body, and especially of that dreadful back. The executioners are in a hurry and set about their work roughly. Perhaps it is better thus, but how does this sharp, dreadful pain not bring on a fainting fit? How clear is is that from beginning to end He dominates, He directs His Passion."

May we all enter into this Holy Week of suffering and glory and exit it filled to the brim with increased faith, hope, and charity.

N.B. The picture above is the living face of Jesus reconstructed from the image of the dead face of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin. There are blessings attached to devotion to the Holy Face. Look into His eyes and know His love for you.

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